Writing Characters and People Different from You.

Last week, I wrote about some writing tips to potentially help out with school papers, fanfics, novels, articles, etc and included many different resources that could help with writing. But I also wanted to write about and research writing different characters, particularly characters that are different from you in whatever way. It can be difficult to navigate how to write a completely different person but hopefully, this will be a good starting place.

My tips on creating different characters – these in no way should be considered the end all of tips for creating a diverse cast of characters but instead just the beginning.

  1. Realize that people with different identities from yours are people and complex and human. The things that may set your character apart from you (race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, gender, ability, etc) is just a part of their entire identity but it will change how that character experiences the world in contrast to you.
  2. Read as much as you can about the identities of the characters you’re writing and creating from real people. There are many blog posts and articles and videos with people talking about their experiences being a part of the LGBT community or being a person of color or living with a disability.
  3. Intersectionality is important – remember that there is so much that makes up a character and not everything can or should revolve around one aspect of their identity
    1. ie don’t make a gay character all about being gay. Let it be a part of their character but not their entire existence.
  4. Also don’t make a character a stereotype of their identity.
  5. This is a general tip for all writers but be open and listen to criticisms.
    1. If I’m giving feedback or critiquing someone’s writing, there’s probably going to be a fair amount of red and comments – not because it’s terrible or even remotely personal. It’s because for me in writing, more feedback just means the person wants your work to be even better. And different people might pick up on different things that you might have missed.
  6. There is no universal experience – everyone is going to have different experiences with different things.
    1. How people experience depression or anxiety or PTSD is going to vary based on the individual; how people of color experience racism is also going to vary on a variety of different factors. There’s no fundamentally right way to write an identity or character but there are many right ways to start and take the character.
  7. Look at great and complex characters that already exist for inspiration, including:
    1. Annalise Keating from How To Get Away With Murder
    2. David Singh from The Flash
    3. Raina from Agents of SHIELD
    4. Martha Jones from Doctor Who
    5. Sookie St. James from Gilmore Girls
    6. There are so many more characters out there as well

Race and Ethnicity.

  • How to write people of color if you are white
  • From margin to center: Writing characters of color
  • An illustrated guide to writing people of color
  • Should white people write about people of color?
  • Writing with Color
    • Writing with Color’s recommendations 
  • Nimblr’s Notebook – Romani

LGBTQ+ and Gender.

  • Writing about lesbians when you’re not a lesbian
  • Thinking queer: A guide to writing LGBT characters
  • On bisexual characters and YA literature
  • What being trans is like
  • How NOT to write a strong female character: 5 tips
  • The Bechdel Test

The Mind.

  • Nimble’s Notebook’s tags on Anxiety
  • Kass City Helps – How to write a character with PTSD
  • Kass City Helps – How to write a character with anxiety disorder
  • Writing YA characters with emotional and mental disorders
  • Slithering Ink – Depression

General Stuff

  • From Lena Dunham to Junot Diaz – How to write people who aren’t you
  • Nimble’s Notebook’s tags – formerly known as the Writing Cafe on Tumblr and I’m still utterly convinced that their tag page is writing heaven
  • How to create diverse characters

Again, this is just the beginning because there is so much information already out there to help with creating characters and writing people who aren’t you. For me, this is something I feel really strongly about because diversity in different mediums is often very difficult to come by, especially well done and researched diversity that does not feel forced.


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